Although the weather was damp and chilly, inside Wallace Hall the vibrant flowers and candlelight offered refuge, renewal, and re-connection for the 155 supporters gathered on May 10 for LifeWay Network’s annual Event Towards New Life. The energy and sense of community was palpable as supporters gathered to celebrate the success of LifeWay Network and honor Freedom Award recipient Carol Robles-Román.
Looking Forward: A Deeper, Ongoing Connection
In her opening remarks, Sister Joan Dawber, Founder and Executive Director, thanked everyone for their continued support for LifeWay Network’s mission of bringing an end to human trafficking. She emphasized that the success of LifeWay Network has always been in its relationships. The goal is to build on the legacy of the organization’s first ten years by creating even deeper relationships with survivors. She revealed that LifeWay Network is exploring the idea of a mentoring program to give the women they serve additional accompaniment on their journey towards empowerment and independence—a connection that will continue even after they leave the safe house. Sister Joan made a direct appeal to the audience to consider mentoring, “LifeWay Network has always been about relationships. You are some of the most critical ones we have.”
Freedom Award Honoree: Carol Robles-Román
The Freedom Award recognizes an individual whose actions have brought about change that both raises awareness of the issue of human trafficking and helps alleviate the suffering of those who have been trafficked. This year’s Honoree, Carol Robles-Román, has focused on advocating for women and girls throughout her legal career. Her work on behalf of the most vulnerable embodies the social justice values shared by the LifeWay community of supporters. Ms. Robles-Román noted, “Helping to end violence against women, and trafficked girls and women, has become a passion for me, some might say an obsession.” She emphasized that passage of the Stop Online Trafficking Act is only the beginning of the effort to protect survivors and punish traffickers. She is currently working to achieve Constitutional equality for women, which will offer more legal protection, especially for the most vulnerable women. She stressed that organizations such as LifeWay Network must be properly funded to ensure victims have someplace to go.
Voice of Freedom: LifeWay Helped “Helen” Find New Life
LifeWay Network is a place where trauma is transformed into triumph. The safe houses are homes where healing happens. The evening’s Voice of Freedom speaker, “Helen” is an inspiring illustration of this point. She spoke eloquently and candidly to a rapt audience about her emotional journey toward new life. Prior to arriving in the United States to join her husband, Helen had attained two degrees and had a career. She soon found herself in an untenable situation, in an unfamiliar country where she knew no one. She escaped, only to be found by her abuser. When she finally came to LifeWay, she was scared and distrustful. She struggled with debilitating depression during the first six months at the safe house. “I did not see anything ahead of me. I thought my life had ended. I didn’t have any purpose. I could not relate myself to the world. I was so scared to talk to people. I was totally terrified. I would not trust anyone, except the sisters in the community.” She credits the sisters and the community for bringing her back to health and giving her a reason to hope again. “No matter how I feel, what my needs are, I can just call them up and they will be there to support me and to help me in any way possible.” She added, “I think that LifeWay is the perfect word for this organization. It really does help you come back to life.”
Helen considers hers a success story. She has graduated from the program and is working in her chosen field. Her gratitude to LifeWay is evident. “LifeWay provided me with everything I needed. The education. The support. Every time I would achieve something, they would just cheer me on so passionately.” She urged everyone to continue supporting LifeWay and the survivors. “I’m standing here in front of you, sharing my story… because LifeWay was here for me.”
Thank you to everyone who came out for this wonderful evening!
Guest blog post by Cyd Averill.